Two Students Make Huge Strides in Undergraduate Research!

By Hayley Cox

Many assume that research theses are milestones only tackled by graduate level students, but at Texas A&M University undergraduates are overcoming this assumption. Two Texas A&M students received the award for Best Thesis at the Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) recognition ceremony in May of 2013:

Austin Baty - Best Thesis - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Austin Baty – Best Thesis – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Austin Baty, a Physics and Mathematics major, received the prize for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Cecilia Morales - Best Thesis - Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Cecilia Morales – Best Thesis – Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

And English major Cecilia Morales received the prize for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS).

Both Baty and Morales were 2013 Undergraduate Research Scholars, the program through which they won Best Thesis Awards. Over 150 undergraduates are involved in The Undergraduate Research Scholars Program at Texas A&M University.

Morales focused her thesis on a genre known as “Mother’s Legacies” which was very popular in 17th century England. This genre is defined by:

1) A mother-as-advice-giver perspective
2) A child-as-advice-receiver perspective
3) A backdrop of the mother’s deathbed
4) A religious discussion

Morales’s thesis “examines the mothers’ advice in the context of the advice written to women about how women should behave.” Women of this time period were supposed to remain out of the public eye, and therefore becoming a published author contradicted accepted social mores. On the other hand, writing in the motherhood role allowed these women to seem to fulfill the time’s standard for submissive and compliant behavior. Morales said, “The question I sought to answer was how these women managed to operate as both the woman writer and the mother simultaneously, what rhetorical strategies they used and what historical conditions aided their mission of providing advice for their children and future generations.”

The English major said she found it most complicated to juggle the literature from different religions, genders, education and economic levels. Placing all of these varying works into the same context was a challenge.

The Best Thesis Award winner’s advice to aspiring undergraduate researchers was to “put yourself out there and find a good professor to help.” She said, “I would not have gotten as far as I did without guidance and inspiration from my faculty advisor, Dr. Ezell.” Dr. Margaret Ezell is a Distinguished Professor in the English Department at Texas A&M.

Morales plans to graduate in December of 2013 and move on to graduate school. She will be applying to graduate programs during her summer and fall semesters.

Austin Baty’s thesis examined molecular dynamic simulations of ions in molten salts as part of the development of novel approaches to deal with radioactive waste. Working with Dr. Peter McIntyre, Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy,Austin mastered complex computer code to perform a number of mathematical simulations to help optimize design for accelerator-driven destruction of radioactive elements in nuclear waste. Austin will enter MIT this fall on a full graduate fellowship to study particle physics.

The Department of Honors and Undergraduate Research would like to congratulate both Cecilia Morales and Austin Baty on their outstanding achievements in undergraduate research!

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